Harvard School of Public Health security guard Joseph G. Bartuah filed a complaint with the Massachusetts State Attorney General’s Office earlier this month, alleging his supervisors at Securitas Security Services North America, which provides security services for the University, retaliated against him after he raised workplace concerns to them.
On Feb. 5, Bartuah wrote an email to his supervisors, Takeyon J. Moon and Ryan Pitt to raise concerns. Bartuah heard from coworkers that Pitt told them that Bartuah had failed to “respond to phone calls from the management,” according to emails Bartuah provided. In his email to his supervisors, Bartuah told the managers that those remarks were “uncalled, unprofessional” and would damage his reputation among his superiors and colleagues.
Bartauh said that three days later, he received a call from Alonzo B. Herring, Boston area manager of Securitas North America, telling him not to come to work due to an investigation. In an “investigative meeting,” Bartuah said members of Securitas management showed him surveillance footage in which he was away from his desk during overnight shifts.
Bartuah said in an interview that he has left his post during his shifts, but that this is a “common practice” for security guards working overnight, and no other employees are facing discipline.
“That is because of the overnight culture that we create in the workplace,” Bartuah said. “During the time of the night where everybody’s sleeping, things are pretty loose, so we don’t operate like we operate during the day.”
“I think this investigation started out of retaliation, that's my position,” Bartuah added.
Securitas and Pitt did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Moon declined to comment on Bartuah’s complaint.
“It would be completely inappropriate for us to comment on an on-going employment matter between Securitas and our employee,” Herring wrote in an email.
Shortly after the “investigative meeting,” Bartuah filed a workplace complaint with the State Attorney General’s Office. Margaret Quackenbush, the office’s spokesperson, confirmed the existence of the complaint.
The investigation has left Bartuah in a difficult financial position, he said.
“I’m not getting paid. I don’t know if I could move on,” Bartuah said. “Bills are creeping up as well as the rent at the end of the month.” Bartuah said he has not been paid for two weeks.
In addition to working as a guard at the School of Public Health, Bartuah is a student at the Division of Continuing Education at the Harvard Extension School. After this semester, he said he will only have one semester remaining to complete a Master’s degree in Government.
If he were to be terminated, Bartuah said, he would not be able to register for his final semester. The company has yet to provide him a timeline regarding how long the investigation will last, he said.
“I've gotten myself just trying to focus on my education and trying to look for different opportunities when the investigation ends,” he said. “I think the main reason why I'm even doing this is because I need a new job to complete my degree at the Extension School.”
Bartuah is in contact with his union, 32BJ Service Employees International Union, and Harvard Student Labor Action Movement regarding his case.
“We take allegations of unjust termination seriously and follow a strict protocol to process any grievance accordingly,” 32BJ SEIU spokesperson Amanda Torres-Price wrote in an emailed statement.
University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain wrote in an emailed statement that the University could not comment on the case because Bartuah is employed by Securitas, a contracted firm.
“This matter does not involve employees of the University, and with that the University is not in a position to comment,” Swain wrote. “Additionally, it is the University’s practice to not comment on personnel matters.”
SLAM distributed flyers about Bartuah’s case over Harvard email lists and called for students to contact University Director of Labor and Employee Relations Paul R. Curran regarding Bartuah’s case, according to SLAM organizer Ria Modak ’22.
SLAM is also lobbying the Undergraduate Council to release a “statement of solidarity” for Bartuah, similar to how they supported former University Health Services employee Mayli Shing, who activists have argued was fired from her position as retaliation.
“I think that we've had success in this kind of individual advocacy efforts like Mayli,” Modak said. “Joseph's case points to instances of retaliation that happen in the workplace that are completely unacceptable.”
“In an ideal world, Joseph would be rehired to his old post and with back pay,” Modak said.
—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.
—Staff writer Ruoqi Zhang can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @RuoqiZhang3.